When Maxine Clark quit her corporate job to start her own business, she adapted the ideas of retail entertainment to the selling of toys. Her stores combine an ambience of color, lighting, music, emotion, and activity to drive sales and customer satisfaction. Kids, however, viewed a trip to Clarke's Build-A-Bear Workshop differently: for them, the process of making their own teddy bears and other stuffed animals is a kind of creative play. In a process that kids control themselves, they craft their bears from empty shells, which they stuff using a machine that whirls the fiberfill around like cotton candy. In an important step, kids insert hearts (after they have made a wish on them) and bar codes into their new friends. From the registration station, kids move on to choose outfits, shoes, and accessories that make the toy a unique and very personal creation. From the first stores that opened in 1997, the Build-A-Bear empire grew rapidly to more than 300 stores in the United States and more in Europe and Asia. Though some stores have closed, more than 200 remain places "where best friends are made."